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pensions

The DWP could be about to privatise delivery of the state pension, according to a leaked report. Many may have missed this revelation because of today’s other, more high-profile events.

According to The Guardian, the Department for Work and Pensions is struggling to meet the demand for savings being placed on it by the government; the plan is to slash its operational spending from £9 billion per year in 2009 to £6.3 billion by 2016. This means a £1 billion cut in the 2014-15 financial year.

A leaked report entitled DWP Efficiency Review claims one way of doing this would involve “a review of the pension service’s current delivery model and alternative delivery models” – in other words, privatisation.

The money would still come from the taxpayer but a private company would deliver it to pensioners.

What could possibly go wrong with that idea? After all, involving private companies in public services has worked so well in the past, hasn’t it? Look at G4S with the Olympics, Atos with sickness and disability benefits, any of the many companies involved with the useless Work Programme, or indeed any of the companies currently raiding the English NHS for profit.

(Please be aware that the immediately preceding paragraph was loaded with so much sarcasm, it may now be dripping from your screen. Apologies if this is the case but Vox Political will not be held responsible for the damage. Contact Parliament’s IT service – which happens to be another example of what happens when you get private companies involved in taxpayer-funded services.)

The review will question whether the recently-launched ‘Tell Us Once’ bereavement service, that helps people report deaths in a way that ensures all necessary government departments are made aware, could be more efficient if outsourced. This will be a waste of time as the answer is, quite clearly, no.

Pensions expert Ros Altmann was quoted as saying she was concerned by the idea that firms like Capita, Serco or G4S could be brought in to administer £100bn in public money to millions of pensioners: “We’re dealing with a vulnerable group and a massive number of people, so I would be seriously concerned about outsourcing a service like this, which is working well, with a view that it might make some short-term savings.”

The trouble is, the DWP has to make a saving somewhere, and all the easy efficiencies have already been made, according to the leaked report.

Too crude an approach to future cuts could jeopardise the department’s capacity to roll out changes to pensions, child maintenance and disability benefits.

It is significant that Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit, which is dogged by delays and IT problems, is not part of the review.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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